There was a result at the end of a rainy day. This has to do with the magic of the T20 game, which can transform itself into an even greater lottery, down even to T5 these days. T8 could be considered a reasonably long game in trying conditions as a rain-hit match is never likely to sport a belter of a pitch as the surface would have lain under the covers for a long time. There was a treat for the eager crowd at Tiruvananthapuram’s flashy new sporting venue in an India win that also kept Virat Kohli’s record intact.
Team India have not lost a series in any format since the South Africans won an ODI series here in 2015. But then India had never beaten the Kiwis in a T20 game in history and such a contrasting record lent some meaning even to a T20 international, apart of course from the entertainment value of the format. There was a lot to play for then in a short and sharp shootout like a soccer tiebreaker. Once again, India were tested by the brave Kiwis who have learnt a thing or two under Brendon McCullum who, as captain, had brought about this dramatic change in the approach of a team once thought of as the eternal bridesmaids of the game.
It is a pity then that history was upheld in terms of results for the Kiwis who landed up second best again, just as they had done under McCullum in his farewell World Cup of 2015. Williamson may, by technique and temperament, be a totally different kind of player but he has adapted to the spirit of adventurous cricket. With a bit of luck, the Kiwis may have landed the ODI series in the decider. In the final T20 they made the cardinal error of trying to over-hit the ball in the first couple of overs and put too much pressure on themselves in losing early wickets in what may have been a target that could have been chased down.
Team India had a number of lessons to learn from the visit by the Kiwis. It was easy to surmise that they are not as good as they were made out to be after they had beaten the Aussies, a feeling that only grows in strength after the last of the series before Kohli’s men head out to South Africa, which might prove a bigger testing ground, especially since that is one country in which India is yet to win a Test series. They do play the Sri Lankans at home before leaving for the southern hemisphere, which means this is the best time to try out more youngsters so that the selectors may come to know who are the ones likely to stand up to scrutiny under pressure in crunch situations.
There will be scope even in the Test series to try out young players, particularly bowlers, to see how well they can perform. The Sri Lankan batsmen are no pushovers when it comes to playing spin on turning tracks. All bowlers will tell you that the more they bowl in competition the more they learn. The more they play the longer format and the ODI the better chance they would have to shine in T20s too. Also, while it’s time to test the young wicket-keepers, Dinesh Karthik must be given more constant exposure in ODIs as batsman.
He has performed exceedingly well when given opportunities and should be given a fixed rank in the batting order so he can show how useful he can be as a good prospect for the World Cup as a seasoned campaigner who can make a difference to the middle order.